A few more words on the least-popular topic I write about on this blog (I've written seven or eight posts on the topic in 2005, and the total number of words in comments posted in reply to those posts is two), and I'll go back to grading papers.
Last night was one of many ironies. Spartan Stadium is a shithole, but nonetheless Spartan Stadium had a lot to do with the atmosphere at last night's match. It's so teensy that the fans are right on top of the action ... you know the players and referees can hear you. "Intimate" is the word.
Also, Spartan plays right into an ongoing theme for this franchise, which is treated like shit. Most of the players on the current squad were given up on by their previous clubs, for one thing. And, most obviously, the entire San Jose franchise is always one step from being moved to some other part of the country. The irony is that, as last night demonstrated once again, for all its obvious flaws, Spartan Stadium lends itself to terrific atmosphere, which showed up extremely well on the national teevee telecast. The packed stands on the opposite side from the cameras ... the incessant noise ... the ecstasy when a goal was scored ... I've read from fans all over the country this morning who are amazed at what we can stir up in that shithole. There may be good reasons to move the franchise, but if they do, something will be lost: a venue that just might provide the best atmosphere in American soccer.
Which is another irony, because one thing is certain: without a new soccer-specific stadium, the Earthquakes will move.
Meanwhile, if Landon Donovan didn't seem to "get it" in the lead-up to the match, he gets it now, and better late than never. As he said in a post-match interview, "As much as it sucked for me, it's pretty damn cool that people care this much. It felt like a foreign place, I give the fans credit for that. I give the Earthquakes credit for playing well. It's really a good thing. It's not good for us, but it's a good thing for the league.... I think [the fans were like that] because they care about their team. They don't want people leaving. Passion is a good thing."
Meanwhile, Ann Killion, often one of the better reporters on the Quakes, has an excellent piece in today's Mercury-News:
Donovan not the real villain
The passion pulsating through the stands at Saturday night's Earthquakes game should have done more than gotten Landon Donovan's attention. It should have gotten the attention of his employer.
But the game was played at Spartan Stadium. So the Anschutz Entertainment Group muckety-mucks probably ignored it.
Still, the much-maligned stadium was packed, full of loud, peeved-off fans who want better. Signs lined the railings: "Landon Judas Donovan,'' "Primadonovan Traitor,'' "Donovan is Traitor Scum.''
And this one: "AEG: Anti Earthquakes Group.'' ...
But we all know that Earthquakes fans don't really hate Donovan. He's an honest, likable, talented young man and the best thing that ever happened to the Earthquakes.
What they really hate is the ownership system that has marginalized their team and stripped it bare.
And it's much easier to boo a living, breathing player than a multi-million dollar company and a system that stinks.
If it makes you feel any better, even Donovan knows it stinks.
"I absolutely understand that,'' Donovan said earlier in the week. "The owners are paying our paychecks, but still it's frustrating." ...
But of course, no one has bought the Earthquakes. They're still owned by the Anti Earthquakes Group, which is running it like a chop shop in a back alley, dismantling the operation and redistributing its parts....
"What a great crowd,'' [Donovan] said. "This was a great night for them.''
It was a night that could have made a statement about the importance of keeping the Earthquakes alive and thriving. That is, if anyone was listening.
Click here for seven minutes of match highlights (this might be a Windows-only link), including the decapitation of the Landon pinata, the astonishing four-save melee in front of the Quakes goal early in the second half, and of course, lots and lots of booing.